The Afghan Taliban have released an audio message purportedly from leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, vehemently rejecting reports that he was killed in an internal firefight as “enemy propaganda”.
“There is no truth to the rumours that I was injured or killed in Kuchlak (near Quetta in Pakistan),” said the more than 16-minute long audio file, emailed to media by a Taliban spokesman yesterday.
“This is enemy propaganda… I haven’t seen Kuchlak in years.”
Afghan intelligence officials and multiple insurgent sources had claimed that Mansour had been seriously injured in a heavy exchange of fire at a gathering of militant commanders on Tuesday.
Speculation about Mansour’s fate reached a fever pitch after unconfirmed media reports on Friday claimed that he had died.
Vehement denials by the Islamist group of any shootout fell on sceptical ears, especially after they kept the death of longtime chief Mullah Omar secret for two years.
Mansour was declared Taliban leader on July 31 after the insurgents confirmed the death of Omar, who led the Islamist movement for about two decades.
But splits immediately emerged in the group, with some top leaders refusing to pledge allegiance to Mansour, saying the process to select him was rushed and even biased.
Many were also unhappy that Omar’s death had been kept secret for two years — during which time annual Eid statements were issued in his name.
“There is no truth to the rumours that I was injured or killed in Kuchlak (near Quetta in Pakistan),” said the audio file, emailed to media by a Taliban spokesman.